Culture / Technology / Sponsored / Contributed

Customer-Service Ownership: The Case for a New Approach

28 May 2021 10:00am, by

Michael Cucchi
Michael is the vice president of product at PagerDuty. He has over 20 years of engineering, product management and marketing experience in the high-tech and software industries. Michael creates and drives PagerDuty's overall product and ecosystem positioning, product strategy, community advocacy and competitive intelligence.

We’ve all been there. Something goes wrong with your broadband, so you call your provider to find the problem. When on the phone with your provider, they don’t know who you are or what the problem is. Worst of all, they make you try all the troubleshooting steps that you’ve already done all over again. Or perhaps you’re phoning up a logistics company to see what happened to a missing order — and it takes them 10 minutes just to identify you.

Every time something like this happens, it chips away at a brand’s reputation, dissolving customer loyalty and trust.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Customer service can gain a real-time view to understand exactly what situation the customer is in. Better still, they can run active diagnostics or resolve issues themselves rapidly and effectively. This is only possible if agents have the right technology to collaborate seamlessly with executives, technical teams and developers, giving them full visibility of the problem and how it’s being solved.

The Customer Experience is King

Today’s digital-first businesses have doubled down on cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and other transformational technologies to differentiate and grow. These strategies have helped them drive operational efficiencies, employee productivity and the agility to react fast to changing customer demands. In the past year, this kind of digital transformation has been nothing short of a lifesaver for organizations faced with an existential crisis to shift to all-digital interactions and to do it or die in the process.

Digital-first also creates heightened customer expectations, though. For consumers, they want their online banking, video streaming, broadband, e-commerce deliveries and more to work seamlessly 24/7/365. For businesses, they need those critical partner services to take care of their customers, keep critical digital services online and survive. When something goes wrong, everyone wants to see their vendor’s service agents on top of the problem, providing them with regular updates and working with other teams to resolve the issue quickly and effectively. Over the course of the pandemic, this has put huge pressure on those staff on the front line. In a world where the customer experience is king, these very staff are increasingly your most important employees.

Why? Simply put, good customer experience builds brand value and loyalty. Even when something bad happens, the customer will remember how they were treated rather than the incident itself. In this context, your customer-service staff are doing more than merely answering tickets and reports. They’re helping to build an indelible perception of your organization among customers and turn a potentially bad situation into one that builds versus kills customer loyalty. It’s little wonder that 46% of business professionals in 2020 said their priority for investment over the next five years is customer experience, more than product (34%) or pricing (21%).

When Things Go Wrong

According to Forrester, “Consumers appreciate experiences that spark delight. They love experiences that spark hope.” Yet, too often, today things don’t quite pan out that way. Why? Because customer-service organizations don’t invest in the right tools to connect them to the rest of the business. People, process and technology are siloed, and agents are left out of the loop, reactively passing on sequential reports to technical and other teams with little insight into the bigger picture, if it’s being solved or who is best placed to tackle a specific issue.

The impact could be severe. A third of U.S. consumers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience and nearly three-fifths would do so after several bad experiences. It’s not just the bottom line and brand that suffers. Call center and support staff may get frustrated, unmotivated and stressed with the pressure of being faced every day with angry customers whose problems they can’t solve.

The Case for Full-Case Ownership

On the other hand, investing in good customer service and empowering agents can have a hugely positive impact. Over half (56%) of consumers say that customer service is the reason they stay loyal to their brands, more than those who cite price, product assortment and ease of shopping experience.

This is where full-case ownership comes in. Under this new operating model, customer service and support teams can own issues from first report to close. Full-case ownership sees customer-service teams handed the integrated tools connected to developers and technical teams in real-time. Teams have visibility and context into issues. If possible, powerful automation is on hand to escalate or help customers solve issues themselves. With this, they can better understand each incident holistically and mobilize the right technical and operational teams to solve it,  all while keeping the customer regularly updated.

Thinking back to our broadband example: Teams could immediately identify the customer, the potential root cause and provide an update on the problem and if engineers are already on site fixing it, with an estimated time to repair. All without the annoying 30-minute troubleshooting scripts that we all hate and curse

With PagerDuty, agents have a direct line of escalation and bidirectional communications channels to engineering and other teams to accelerate incident resolution. Push-button escalation policies ensure certain cases nearing or breaching SLAs and involving VIPs are prioritized for attention. Machine learning and automation can even flag issues for proactive communication with customers and empower service teams to resolve issues themselves, further enhancing the customer’s experience of your brand and offloading stressed technical teams.

In Control of Their Own Destiny

Historically, customer agents were left out of these critical response workflows. This only added to the confusion, as multiple duplicate tickets were submitted by agents, and customers were left in the dark. In fact, by the time a ticket is filled out, the customer loyalty has already been affected.

Full-case ownership is all about unification – ensuring the right information is available to agents from connected enterprise systems, so they understand immediately what services are affected and who to escalate to. These could be customer-service software applications from the likes of Zendesk, Freshworks or Salesforce; developer tools such as Github of Jira, or collaboration and chatOps tools such as Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams

If your technical teams are already using PagerDuty to monitor and respond to incidents, then consider building out these integrations to enhance collaboration between IT Ops, DevOps and your customer-service teams. Customer-service ops: It’s all about breaking down legacy siloes to mobilize the right resources in real-time and putting front-line agents back in control of their own destiny so customers are left smiling.

Featured image via Pixabay

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